News6 Investigates


6 Investigates: Departing council member warns about sweetheart sport complex lease deal

Posted at 6:02 PM, Jan 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-10 11:05:01-05

A conversation about whether to lease more city land to a private company for $1 per year could resurface again with the newly elected City Council.

And an outgoing Corpus Christi councilwoman had parting words of advice during a farewell speech on Tuesday.

“If anyone wants to use city property, basically, they should pay market rates for it,” said Debbie Lindsey-Opel, outgoing At-Large Councilwoman for the City of Corpus Christi. “Two hundred acres for free didn’t make any sense at the time and I don’t think it’s going to make any sense in the future.”

Lindsey-Opel, who did not seek another term, voted against a new lease agreement with a San Antonio-based developer called SQH Sports. The 6-1 council vote was in April, requiring one more meeting vote before the agreement could be finalized. Councilman Rudy Garza abstained from the vote because he owns property near the city land.

Instead, council members tabled the vote, and it hasn’t appeared on an agenda since August.

Now, newly elected District 3 Councilman Roland Barrera wants to take up the discussion again. The sports complex would be in his district, and he endorsed the concept of the sports complex in a phone interview. But he doesn’t know enough about the project to say whether it’s a good deal for taxpayers, he added.

SQH Sports looks forward to working with the new City Council, getting back on the agenda and finalizing a contract, said Melissa Welch-Lamoreaux, a spokesperson for the company.

The company has agreed to build a youth sports complex on the edge of the city limits on 200 acres of city land next to the Crosstown Expressway where the freeway was recently widened across the Oso Creek. The complex would include baseball and soccer fields and an indoor gymnasium to host youth sports tournaments.

That lease agreement would replace an existing contract the company has with the city to build a sports complex on just 60 acres of city land.

Also, as a part of that agreement the company was supposed to purchase adjacent private property where it would build a hotel and retail development. No work has started.

Partners for the company have said they need more public land to do the project because a portion of it is in a flood plain, and not able to be developed. For the new lease of 200 acres, the company wants to pay the same price – just $1 per year.

Since the scope and size of the project have changed, Lindsey-Opel said the project should go back out for a public bid – something that has not happened.

“We can’t give special interest special advantages, and more importantly – no business would take that deal,” she said during her farewell speech. “I hope the next council won’t take that deal either.”

A KRIS 6 News investigation in July discovered the company’s references did not check out. And despite the company’s claims, there was no record that the partners had any experience managing sports.



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